ED and Fasting/Feasting

I have received some suggestions asking me if I could post about how one can handle the balance between ED and religious customs, such as fasting and feasts. Although religions may differ, there are some similiarities in that they fast or abstain from food for certain reasons (for example, to remember an event), and this is often followed by a big feast to celebrate. I will talk about some of these issues and how one with ED can try to balance all of these situations. I pray that this helps!

1) FASTING. In my religion (Orthodoxy), we fast for many reasons: Christmas, Easter, etc. These fasts can be as short as three days to as long as three months! The absolute strictest sense is fasting without food from the morning until around 6 PM, which is when the Liturgy is held and we can take communion. If one cannot fast without any food, milk/dairy products as well as meat are withheld instead. In some cases, fish is allowed (depending on the fast occasion). I know what you are thinking: how does someone with ED do this? Well, it all comes down to the person. God does not desire for us to fast and hurt our bodies in the process; rather, fasting is seen as a way for humans to realize that they need to control their wordly desires. For example, the point of fasting is to realize that as humans, we need to control our habit of sinning. By not eating, we are showing ourselves that if we can stay for a while not eating and feeling hungry, we can most definitely take the steps to stop commiting wrong deeds. However, I want to make a distinct and important point here: GOD LOOKS AT THE HEART. Thus, for someone like me who is recovering, I can make a plan with my Father of Confession (a priest at my church) and decide that instead of fasting, I will (for example) memorize a Psalm every week and take the steps necessary to stop being rude to others. If I can fast without harming my body, I can. But sometimes, fasting for an entire day might be hard for us, especially for someone who is recovering from ED. Keeping in mind that God looks at the heart, we realize that it does no good if someone is fasting all day, yet they are lying, rude, mean, and sinning. What good, then, does fasting do? Nothing. Thus, each to his own. If you can fast, then go for it. If you cannot, do not fear that God will be harsh to you or that you have failed; rather, realize that it is your actions that is most important. "It is not what goes into a man's mouth that harms him, bur rather, what comes out of it" (Matthew 15:11).

2) FEASTING. So, the church has been fasting for a month now, and everyone is ready to eat some good chicken, cheese, milk, and chocolate. These feasts usually occur late in the day (around 11 PM or midnight) because that is when the Liturgy for that occassion ends. Typically, people have no problem eating this late because they just want to taste some of the good food that they have not eaten for a while. But, what is someone with ED to do? Do I eat at this occassion and feel guilty, or not eat enough? Or can I not eat and hope that people will understand? The most important (and best) decision that I made about feasts was this: help people to understand what you are going through, what you will do, and how they can help. For me, this means that I usually do not eat during feasts at around midnight. Why? Pay attention to this, because this is important: IT IS NOT THAT I AM RESTRICTING. Rather, I typically do not feel hungry at times when I need to eat, so, I will definitely not be hungry at midnight since I will have eaten a meal a couple hours ago (bedtime snack). At first, I would be really worried about how I would handle these feasts. Then, after talking to my family (my biggest support system!), I realized that I do not need to worrry about these events. Getting together with my family to celebrate Easter or Christmas is wonderful, but it is NOT ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. If we were getting together at around dinnertime (ex. 6 pm), I would definitely eat because that is when I would need my next meal. But, I could not skip my dinner at 6 pm just so that I can eat a bigger meal at midnight - in recovery, I need to keep my meal times consistent so that my body is assured that it is going to get what it needs. From another perspective, knowing what is going to be served at these celebrations helps me plan my meals. If we re going to eat a mealtime that is consistent with my lifestyle, maybe I can try something there. If not, then I will bring my own food to ensure that I am eating what I need. Maybe this sounds weird to people - to be honest, it does not matter to me. I am at the stage in my life when I really do not worry what others may think or say, because I know that my health and happiness depends on my recovery being solid. I need to do what I need to do to keep myself healthy, strong, and happy. If that means bringing my own food to celebrations or eating at my own mealtimes to ensure I am getting enough, so be it.

These were the major two issues that people asked me to talk about. NOTE: this is the way I handle things. If you have ED and have a team, maybe they will suggest something different to you. Do what works best for YOU, not what others say is best for them. Although recovery from ED is working towards similar goals (ex. to eat wel, to be healthy and happy, to have less ED thoughts), there is not ONE WAY to do things. I learned what works best for me, and this is what I do. I let my loved ones know how I am handling situations so that they can support me and realize that I need to do wht my health depends on. And to be honest, if you have people who love and care for you, they will not care about when you eat your meals and what you eat (as long as you are eating enough and what you need) - they will just be happy and thankful that you are present to celebrate an event with them. Remember, God does not want us to hurt ourselves by fasting or feasting - these are meant to be times of joy when we come together with others and celebrate our faith.

"Don't judge by appearance or height...The Lord doesn't see things the way [humans] see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the HEART." (1 Samuel 16:7).

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